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Next week will improve reserves: SBP governor

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Next week will improve reserves: SBP governor

Addressing businessmen at the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), he acknowledged that the country’s reserves had fallen quite low but added that projects in the pipeline would help improve them
In the absence of any dollar inflows from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or friendly countries, the central bank’s forex reserves dropped to $4.34 billion in the week ending Jan 6, the lowest since February 2014.

The country has been facing a serious dollar shortage, which is resulting in restricted imports of even food and industrial raw materials. The latest position of foreign exchange reserves reflects that the country doesn’t have sufficient dollars to cover even one month of average imports.

While the central bank had lifted curbs on the imports of several essential items required as raw material earlier this year, several associations across different sectors have complained that the non-opening of letters of credit (LCs) is creating shortages, with several companies suspending operations in recent months.

In his address today, SBP Governor Ahmed explained the move to restrict imports, saying that banks had been directed to prioritise the opening of LCs for imports of food, pharmaceutical items, oil, agriculture-related items and raw material required by export-oriented industries.

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“Of course, when we export, our inflows increase. We set some priorities to facilitate [exporters] so their businesses could continue and there was no negative impact on exports.

“We tried to prioritise these sectors and then we said banks could facilitate the rest of the sectors if they had liquidity,” he said. However, this did not mean that other sectors were not important for the central bank, Ahmad added.

“We have to facilitate them but within our capacity and [level of] inflows. Obviously, we do not have dollars available locally.”

Remittances, export proceeds and foreign loans help build the State Bank’s capacity to support businesses, the governor noted. “Therefore, we are focusing on our capacity and intervening administratively to [curb] imports so they remain at a reasonable level,” he added.

Plan to facilitate LCs

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He said the central bank would make an action plan soon to facilitate the opening of LCs. “I assure you these are top-priority issues for us,” he stressed.

He noted that the SBP had allowed imports on a deferred payment basis, beyond 365 days, from shipment date.

Imports funded by foreign exchange available with the importers and raised through equity or project loan/import loan from abroad had also been allowed, he recalled.

If banks were not implementing the directives, then the State Bank would take it up with them, he assured.

Economic slowdown

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Reserves have been in sharp decline since the beginning of fiscal year 2023. Analysts expect high inflation and low industrial output in the months ahead as production is being squeezed due to the unavailability of imported raw materials.

Manufacturers associated with the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry claimed recently that banks were not even processing $1,500 payments for the import of spare parts — a phenomenon that is bringing the entire supply chain to a standstill.

Large-scale manufacturing has shrunk for three consecutive months, and several companies, including Indus Motor, Pak Suzuki and Nishat Chunian, have partially suspended operations in recent months.

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Chinese firm aims to expand investments in Pakistan, shows interest in mining sector

Chinese firm aims to expand investments in Pakistan, shows interest in mining sector

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Chinese firm aims to expand investments in Pakistan, shows interest in mining sector

 A notable Chinese company has expressed keen interest in expanding its investment in Pakistan, in yet another sign of investor confidence boost in the leadership of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

A delegation from Chinese firm MCC Tongsin Resources led by its Chairman Wang Jaichen called on PM Shehbaz here on Friday.

The premier invited the Chinese company to invest in Pakistan’s mining sector and manufacturing of export goods.

Shehbaz assured the delegation that his government would extend all-out facilitation to the company from minerals exploration and processing to the export of goods.

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The PM instructed the relevant federal ministers and officers to continue consultation with the Chinese firm, taking the Balochistan chief minister, provincial departments and stakeholders on board.

The delegates reposed trust in PM Shehbaz’s leadership, and expressed keen interest in enhancing their investment in Pakistan’s mining and minerals sectors.

The delegation briefed Prime Minister Shehbaz about the construction of a mineral park in Pakistan and their future investment plans.

The premier welcomed the Chinese firm and highlighted the priority steps by his government to promote foreign investment in Pakistan.

He said that being a time-tested friend, China supported Pakistan in every difficult hour for which the Pakistani nation was grateful to the leadership and people of China.

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Federal ministers Ahad Khan Cheema, Dr Musaddik Malik, Rana Tanveer Hussain, Jam Kamal Khan and relevant senior officers attended the meeting.

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Govt jacks up power price by Rs1.47 per unit

Govt jacks up power price by Rs1.47 per unit

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Govt jacks up power price by Rs1.47 per unit

The government on Friday increased the electricity tariff by Rs1.47 per unit.

According to Nepra sources, the collection from consumers will take place in August, September, and October.

The electricity companies had requested the funds as part of the third quarter adjustment for 2023-2024, seeking Rs 31.34 billion under capacity charges.

Sources said that Rs5.57 billion were requested for operation and maintenance costs, and Rs12.38 billion were requested for the transmission and distribution impact under monthly fuel cost adjustment.

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Previously, Nepra had completed the hearing on the electricity companies’ request under the quarterly adjustment.

Nepra approved the Power Division’s request, allowing an increase of Rs 1.45 per unit in electricity prices.

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Hong Kong allows China’s digital yuan to be used in local shops

Hong Kong allows China’s digital yuan to be used in local shops

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Hong Kong allows China's digital yuan to be used in local shops

Hong Kong will allow mainland China’s pilot digital currency to be used in shops in the city, the head of its de facto central bank said on Friday, marking a step forward for Beijing’s efforts to internationalise the yuan amid rising geopolitical tensions.

The programme, backed by Beijing, will allow mainland Chinese and Hong Kong residents to open digital yuan wallets via a mobile app developed by China’s central bank and will permit them to make payments in retail shops and some online stores in Hong Kong and in mainland China.

Transactions using e-CNY, predominantly for domestic retail payments in China, hit 1.8 trillion yuan ($249.27 billion) as of end of June 2023, with 120 million digital wallets opened, according to the latest disclosure from China’s central bank.

Using the wallet, users can make payments at over 10 million merchants in 17 provinces and cities in the mainland.

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Each wallet used in the city will be subject to a balance limit of 10,000 yuan, with single transactions and daily payments capped at 2,000 yuan and 5,000 yuan, respectively, officials from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority said.

Peer-to-peer transfers will not be allowed at the moment, according to the HKMA.

“By expanding the e-CNY pilot in Hong Kong .. users may now top up their wallets anytime, anywhere without having to open a mainland bank account, thereby facilitating merchant payments in the mainland by Hong Kong residents,” HKMA Chief Eddie Yue said.

Currently, users of other digital yuan wallets such as those operated by Ant Group and Tencent can make payments in the city.

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Bank of China Ltd, China Construction Bank Corp and Bank of Communications Co have been selected as e-CNY wallet operators.

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The yuan’s use in global finance remains low, though it has shown steady increases.

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